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March 10, 2014

2014 Dodge Durango Test Drive Review

2014 Dodge Durango Road Test Review by Bob Plunkett

2014 Dodge Durango Road Test Review

The unibody SUV gains new electronic controls

By Bob Plunkett

Big  chunky rocks, not water, fill the dry bed of a creek cut through the  cedar-studded hills of Texas as a brawny 2014 edition of Durango -- the big-rig  sport utility vehicle from Dodge packing massive firepower and applying  traction to all four wheels -- muscles its way in bump-bump-bump increments  across so many stones.

The  SUV doesn't waver from our mission to ford the dry wash, although its front  wheels, floating independently, articulate way-up and way-down to crawl over  the rocks.

Yet  from a driver's vantage in Durango's cushy cabin with a heated steering wheel  and leather hides covering the three tiers of seats, we never notice the wild  wheel gyrations because this formidable wagon feels surprisingly steady despite  the romp over rough terrain.

That  smooth but rock-solid ride quality begins with a monocoque platform that unites  chassis and body in a cohesive unit that's extremely rigid when set in motion. [Read]

February 24, 2014

2014 Green SUV & CUV Buyer's Guide - Which Made Top 10?

2014-13 Earth Aware CUV/SUV Buyer's Guide written by Martha Hindes

2014 Green SUV & CUV Buyer's Guide
written by Martha Hindes

The year 2014 could  be a fantastic or frustrating one for hypermiling crossover vehicle fans —  those who specialize in wringing every possible bit of energy, and distance,  from a vehicle fuel source. A tantalizing group of cutting edge, fuel-starving  green SUVs and CUVs peeks out from the pages of glossy automotive magazines.  They leap off the fluid screens of internet blog sites. They highlight conversations  of tree hugging enthusiasts over their water filtering bottles as they travel,  with tender footsteps, across fields, ford streams, climb rocks and breathe in  the essence of the clean air they are determined to protect. Those futuristic  vehicles—that might have made the Jetsons green with envy—hint at the  extraordinary research, development, and cost, from car companies trying to  find new, previously unimaginable ways to cut the energy footprint of getting  from here to there.

Combined with the  promise of an ecologically sound means of transport, they seem to be the  perfect answer for an increasingly clogged environment that conservationists  avow desperately needs cleaner, less earth sullying vehicles. These trendy,  coveted and ultimately usable people haulers seem to have it all — the perfect  size and shape for a number of travel needs from hauling some goods to carrying  a small group of people to subbing as a mobile office or at times a service  vehicle, such as a green taxi.

[See Which Green Vehicles for 2014 Made the Top 10 List]

February 17, 2014

Toyota Corolla Wins 2014 Most Earth Aware Car of the Year

2014 Toyota Corolla Eco Wins 2014 Earth, Wind & Power Car of the Year - Most Earth Aware

Toyota Corolla Eco Named

2014 Earth, Wind & Power "Most Earth Aware Car of the Year"

Earth, Wind & Power Awards - Most Earth Friendly Car of the Year
sponsored by

Bridgestone Tire Sponsors 2013 International Car of the Year Awards - Presented by Road & Travel Magazine

Review by Martha Hindes | Press Release

As we watched a profusion of college students jog, skate, bicycle and schmooze their way past our Minneapolis hotel, we realized we were in for an education on what is important to those on the cusp of an environmentally challenging world. They were the kind, in their early 20s to maybe mid-30s it seemed, in plaid sneakers, cutoffs in cold weather and eyes glued to a smart phone screen. Just the type, we thought, who would be woed and won by a point-in-life auto like the resoundingly revised 2014 Toyota Corolla.   We had come to the largest of Minnesota's Twin Cities to find out why Toyota considered its revised compact car so important as the automaker kicked off the 11th generation of this staple. After all, the Corolla has dominated the world of compact autos in all corners of the globe for decades. It virtually launched the small car industry in the U.S. when seeming block-long domestic gas guzzlers dominated American roads. And it has spawned a wealth of imitators seeking to dethrone it from its lofty perch ever since. 

It didn't take long to realize that not only was the Corolla a breath of fresh air visually, but in driving credentials as well. But it also pointed out how the auto is aiding in preserving the fresh air we breathe and protecting our planet by diminishing the factors that add pollutants to the atmosphere. And its achievement of reaching a lofty 40 miles per gallon mileage with an internal combustion engine heart rather than with a highly sophisticated and costly hybrid, clean diesel or more elaborate technology tells us there really still is life in yesterday's engine type when it's tamed and tweaked to accommodate tomorrow’s vehicles.   With those gold star elements plus pricing that has not gone ballistic, it didn't take long to determine the 2014 Corolla was an uncompromising champion to be recognized. And so, it was name Earth, Wind & Power’s Most Earth Aware Car of the Year for 2014. 

2014 Toyota Corolla Named 2014 Most Earth Aware Car of the Year by Road & Travel Magazine
Presenting the 2014 Most Earth Aware Car of the Year award to Bill Fay, Group VP & GM Toyota Division U.S., are Courtney Caldwell, editor, Road & Travel Magazine; and Mike Martini, president Bridgestone OE Americas, and EWP award sponsor.

In accepting the award, Bill Fay, Group Vice President and General Manager - Toyota Division, cited the company's long-time commitment to good fuel economy. "For the past 47 years, Toyota has prioritized outstanding fuel economy for the Corolla.  It’s this attention to detail that has enabled our company to sell a record 40 million Corollas worldwide," he said.   “With the new, 11th generation Corolla, we’ve illustrated that 40 miles per gallon can be achieved through excellent design and engineering. We are truly humbled and appreciative that Corolla has been named the 2014 Earth, Wind & Power Car of the Year. This award validates the efforts of our team to make Corolla the most fuel-efficient vehicle in its class.” [Full story]

February 03, 2014

Chevy Silverado Wins 2014 International Truck of the Year

RTM Names Chevrolet Silverado 2014 International Truck of the Year

Chevrolet Silverado Named

2014 International Truck of the Year

by Road & Travel Magazine

Range Rover Evoque Named 2012 International Truck of the Year - Road & Travel Magazine

sponsored by

Bridgestone Tire Sponsors 2013 International Car of the Year Awards - Presented by Road & Travel Magazine

Review by Martha Hindes | Press Release

When we climbed into the cabin of Chevrolet's newly redesigned 2014 Silverado pickup truck we felt like Mary Barra must have felt upon learning she'd just been named CEO of Chevrolet's parent company, General Motors. We were on top of the world.

At first it was obviously a vehicle meant to do a tough job. We had no doubts about its capability. Then all the plusses that have been incorporated began to catch our attention: The i-Pad sized anchor slot centered in the console just below the instrument panel designed to hold our tablet at a good viewing angle. That location let it sit directly in front of a band of power and data ports—dual 12-volt outlets, a three-prong 120-volt outlet, a flip-up tab hiding three USB ports (not to mention two additional data ports inside a large console bin.)

Envision some woman at a job site scanning architectural specifications, with her tablet easily providing every detail as needed, this is a vehicle that took a lot of thinking. And considering Barra's previous iteration heading up GM's design efforts we suspect she had something to do with the thoughtfulness that went into it.

How vehicles relate to both men and women is one of the key factors Road & Travel Magazine (RTM) looks at when choosing the best truck of the year. We consider the Silverado a thinking person's pickup, anticipating what's needed and providing just the right solution. That makes driving a pleasure instead of a chore. And it's one of the reasons we choose the Silverado as Road & Travel's "International Truck of the Year" winner for 2014.

2014 Chevy Silverado named 2014 International Truck of the Year - Presented by Road & Travel Magazine editor Courtney Caldwell, and ICOTY sponsor, Mike Martini, president Bridgestone OE Americas in Detroit
Presenting the 2014 International Truck of the Year for the Chevrolet Silverado are Courtney Caldwell, editor, Road & Travel Magazine; and Mike Martini, president Bridgestone OE Americas, and ICOTY's 18th annual award sponsor.

RTM editor Courtney Caldwell noted that Chevy's win comes on the 18th Anniversary of the ICOTY awards as well as RTM's 25th anniversary. She cited overall styling, new and more comfortable interior and improved miles per gallon among high points. Its appeal for women as well as men was highlighted in Chevy's groundbreaking commercial as seen here on You Tube, "Her Horse - A Woman and Her Truck," said Caldwell. "Chevy has achieved a remarkable milestone... marketing the Silverado with both genders in mind, those who are active, athletic, rugged, independent and confident. And, as in the case of the 'Her Horse' commercial, a woman of many faces and many hats, and accomplishing this without a hint of 'chick flick' in one frame."

[Full Story]

January 28, 2014

Kia Cadenza Wins 2014 International Car of the Year

2014 International Car of the Year - 2014 Kia Cadenza

Celebrating its 25th Anniversary
Road & Travel Magazine Names

2014 KIA Cadenza

2014 International Car of the Year

Range Rover Evoque Named 2012 International Truck of the Year - Road & Travel Magazine

sponsored by

Bridgestone Tire Sponsors 2013 International Car of the Year Awards - Presented by Road & Travel Magazine

Review by Martha Hindes | Press Release

The Cadenza is Kia's new, full-sized flagship sedan meant to carry the mantel of emerging luxury for the brand. And somehow the company has learned in a short time what on occasion has taken some contenders decades to understand, whether solely U.S.-based or from faraway places: Consumers want upscale, but they aren't necessarily willing to hock the house to get it. The Cadenza gives orchestra seating style and quality at second balcony pricing.

The Cadenza, for Kia, could be considered a watershed model designed to put a crowning touch on the widely diversified offering of vehicles from the energetic South Korean company. With deliberation and determination those have evolved in a short time from barely noticeable bargain hunters' entries on the auto scene when it first hit American shores to a full-fledged stable of prime specimens.

The appearance of the Cadenza on 2014 shopping lists of luxury-conscious consumers confirms its claim it finally has filled the lineup's vacant "want it all" entry upmarket slot with notable success. And the car that has done it is appealing to a wide spectrum of style and quality-conscious drivers, rather than being limited to a narrow band of gear-head or specialty-car enthusiasts. This is an auto a discerning vehicle owner can embrace with pride.

And those are just some of the reasons the Kia Cadenza has earned top honors as RTM’s 2014 International Car of the Year.

Michael Sprague, EVP Communications, Kia Motors America, accepts award for 2014 International Car of the Year for the Kia Cadenza"The Kia Cadenza wins in this category for a variety of reasons, including Kia's remarkable effort to emerge in the entry-lux category," said RTM editor, Courtney Caldwell. "Overall, the car is beautiful and affordable, making upscale style and performance attainable by mid-America. We applaud Kia's rapid rise from underdog to unbelievable!"

On its 25th anniversary, Road & Travel Magazine editors were proud to announce that the Kia Cadenza won its 2014 International Car of the Year Award. “Kia, now celebrating its 20th anniversary in the U.S. market, is among the first to clearly market their products across gender lines in a way that is appealing to both sexes with marketing campaigns that reflect consumer lifestyles of today, not as they were in the 50s,” said Caldwell. [Full story]



August 26, 2013

2014 Subaru Forester Road Test Review

2014 Subaru Forester Road Test Review by Bob Plunkett

2014 Subaru Forester Road Test Review

By Bob Plunkett

Sandstone slabs stepping up a rutted trail in the Rincon Mountains east of Tucson cannot retard the forward progress of a 2014 rendition of Forester, the go-anywhere crossover utility vehicle by Subaru of Japan.

Subaru recasts the all-wheel-drive Forester with 2014 issues and the result is a bigger and stronger wagon with enhanced engine performance, improved fuel economy, better cabin comforts and more personal space.

The 2014 models represent a fourth generation for Forester built on a new unit-body platform with 0.9-inch longer wheelbase length and a wider wheel track. Overall vehicle length increases by 1.4 inches and the body width grows by 0.6-inch, adding 5.5 cubic feet of room to the cabin. The additional cabin space is particularly notable in the rear seat, where legroom expands to 41.7 inches, and in the aft cargo bay now with 34.4 cubic feet of stow space with the 60/40 split rear seatbacks raised and 74.7 cubic feet with rear seatbacks lowered. [Click here for full review]

August 23, 2013

2014 Mazda Mazda6 Road Test Review

2014 Mazda Mazda6 Sedan Road Test Review by Bob Plunkett

2014 Mazda Mazda6 Road Test Review

By Bob Plunkett

The Pig Trail Scenic Byway -- twisty Arkansas 23 running through the Ozark Mountains with steep mountain grades and scary hairpin corners -- becomes our serpentine road track to sample the road-hugging agility and athletic manners of the 2014 Mazda6, Mazda's all-new mid-size sedan.

This next-generation iteration of the Mazda6 does not protest our aggressive treatment in the driver's seat. Actually, it seems to invite more action as we draw quick lines across apexes of so many curves and cruise neatly over whoop-de-do pavement heaves.

The redesigned Mazda6 of 2014 looks lean and aggressive, with swoopy exterior lines spread across a broad structure and bulbous arched fenders that protrude laterally beyond a curt roll of the front hood to articulate low-profile tires mounted on aluminum alloy wheels. [Click here for full review]

August 21, 2013

2014 GMC Sierra 1500 Road Test Review

2014 GMC Sierra 1500 Road Test Review by Bob Plunkett

2014 GMC Sierra 1500 Road Test Review

By Bob Plunkett

We're heading westward on the Pacific Coast Highway out of Santa Barbara, blue waters of the Santa Barbara Channel spreading off the California Coast to the left and brown ramparts of the Santa Inez Range stacked high on the right, while steering a new generational design of the 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 half-ton truck.

This is the ultimate pickup, stoked with power from a big V8 engine, stuffed with comforts inside the 4-door and Crew Cab compartment, and then outfitted with sophisticated electronic controls that make the rig easy to maneuver on a multi-lane freeway, around town on crowded streets or even around a ranch on gravel trails.

The full-size Sierra 1500 for 2014 offers four trim grades:  Sierra, Sierra SLE, Sierra SLT and ultimate Sierra Denali, plus Sierra All-Terrain special edition. [Click here for full review]

August 20, 2013

2014 Kia Forte Sedan Road Test Review

2014 Kia Forte Sedan Road Test Review by Bob Plunkett

2014 Kia Forte Sedan Road Test Review

By Bob Plunkett

Forte, the curvaceous compact-class 4-door sedan from Kia of South Korea shows a stunning new shape for next-generation issues of 2014.

Theme for the exterior design is a fluidity of lines drawn in rectangular format but with a radically raked windshield and low-sloping hood, an arching canopy over the cabin and flank windows plus roof pillars muted to forge the profile of a swift and racy 2-door coupe.

Forte's brash face sports exaggerated narrow-eye headlamp clusters streaking up front fenders and a gaping-mouth grille fitted with shiny mesh chrome.

Side panels undulate with ripples and bulges for wheelwells plus a high-mount character line which rises toward the tail. [Click here for full review]

August 16, 2013

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited Road Test Review

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Road Test Review by Courtney Caldwell

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited Road Test Review

By Courtney Caldwell

I remember the days in the last century (1990s) when SUV's first came out for the everyday consumer and I was one of the first women to take one for a test drive. Many men commented, ‘that’s too big for a woman to drive.’ My standard reply was, ‘Well, I don’t have to carry the damn thing, I just have to drive it,’ which always left a perplexed and dumbfounded look on their faces, as if to say, 'duh, I suppose that’s true.'

No comments were bandied about this week when the new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee showed up for a test drive… and it’s pretty big and buff. If you’re a diehard Jeep fan you’re gonna love the facelift Jeep has applied to its 2014 Cherokee Limited 4x2. Grander than ever, our deep cherry red crystal pearl Jeep handled beautifully; easy turning radius in tight spots, great back up navigation screen for precision parking (and watching out for wee ones), excellent braking control especially for such a large SUV, and loaded with tons of safety features including front and side airbags. It sounds like Jeep has been listening to their loyalist’s want and needs. Well done. [Click here for full review]